“Maybe one day you can write an article about it and tell me why you did it,” teased my father-in-law as he heard of my absolutely uncharacteristic “indiscretion” of the weekend before.
And as I now pivot my head to look in the full-length mirror, the reflection of my no-longer bare back takes me aback for just a moment.
A tattoo? Who-da- thunk it?
Yes, the weekend involved a college campus and a bit of peer pressure. But I swear no alcohol was involved.
I was attending a weekend workshop as part of my Masters’ classes at Miami University. The day marked the last day that my two daughters and I would all be students at Miami at the same time. With my oldest graduating the next month, the day was all the more sweet due to its significance.
“We need to do something big today,” one of my girls suggested. After a varying degree of propositions that took more time, money or nerve than I had that day, they both agreed on the best memory maker for us.
“You need to get the tattoo today.”
A few months earlier, when my younger daughter started at the same university as her sister, they decided to get matching tattoos. Their selection was a Celtic cross –the cross with the circle in the middle. When they unveiled this decision and tattoo to me for the first time, I have to admit it was a bit concerning to see the backs that I had rubbed with sunscreen all those years to protect from any permanent marks, now forever marked with a symbol. Still, I admit the idea of the symbol was intriguing. The cross of course, represents our faith; the circle of the cross, a symbol of eternal love. I actually thought it was a pretty nice tattoo for my daughters to share. When I mentioned it was, indeed, a nice bond, they suggested I join them in the bond. And I laughed at the impossibility of it all.
But somehow it didn’t seem so impossible when my daughters reminded me of their suggestion that day at Miami. Standing there with my two girls each now a young woman, on her own verge of the rest of her life, I wanted to freeze the moment. So I said yes.
And as I sat in the tattoo parlor in Oxford I could not stop smiling a ridiculously goofy smile at the strange scenario I was witnessing but could not fathom. This was a piece of my life’s puzzle you could never have told me would fit in with the other pieces of the last 48 years. It was so not me. And yet, knowing my girls wanted me to share in their bond, made me want to share in getting a tattoo I never would have imagined.
And as I stare at my back today, I think about writing that article to explain to my father-in-law and others why I did such a thing that is so different than anything else I have ever done. But maybe that is also part of the reason I did it.
Coloring inside the lines, thinking inside the box, doing the expected, is stable and decent and good. And that is pretty much how I have lived my life. I have prided myself in being dependable and therefore, pretty predictable. But there is something so liberating about getting older and waking up one day to realize you don’t need the approval of everyone after all. You have reached a beautiful zenith of life when you embrace the idea that you just don’t need to explain everything anymore.
So part of me was tempted to write that article explaining why I got my Celtic cross tattoo; but the other part of me doesn’t want to write it, because after 48 years, I finally know that I understand. And that’s enough.